Mural Contest Winner: Colorado Teens Take a Stand Against Youth Homelessness

Image of winning banner showing homeless youth, a light bulb, and the words November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month

This winter, runaway and homeless youth programs funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau were given the chance to win the materials to paint a mural in their facilities. Here are the essay and artwork submitted by the first place winner, the Colorado Rural Collaborative Youth Leadership Team.

What is the Colorado Mural Project?

Each year the month of November is "National Homeless Youth Awareness Month." Agencies across the nation hold events and host rallies to raise awareness in their communities about this ongoing problem. The month's events include proclamations signed by local government officials, youth-driven projects seeking to bring the public's attention to this issue, and the Green Light Project (in which green lights are used to light up front porches and bring attention to this problem).

Colorado has a special committee consisting of many youth-serving agencies across the state that congregate once a month to plan for the month of November. Each year one of the priorities is choosing a youth project to impact the public and help raise awareness. This year the Colorado Rural Collaborative Youth Leadership Team led the project. The theme for November 2011 was "Making the Connection." The project would highlight "Making the Connection" symbolically by combining tiles from nine different youth-serving agencies in one large and powerful composition. The Mural Project invited youth-serving agencies from across the state to participate. Two of the nine selected were our own Youth Leadership Teams from the Supportive Services for Runaway and Homeless Youth Demonstration Project: Garfield and Montrose Counties. 

Agencies as far as the Western-slope, Denver and Pueblo in the south participated in this statewide collaboration. Each agency was given a digitally sketched portion of a larger composition which they had to enlarge to a 3'x3' tile. The youth groups across the state chose any medium and article style to render their tile, while keeping the original composition in mind. The completed three-foot squares were then submitted to the SSRHY Project Specialist, Amanda Cleveland of Urban Peak Denver and the Colorado Rural Collaborative. Amanda facilitates monthly meetings via conference call with the six Rural Youth Leadership Teams of the Colorado Rural Collaborative to coordinate projects like the mural contest. The final work was displayed during the Denver Kickoff Event, November 4, 2011, on the Santa Fe Art District First Friday Artwalk, which was attended by thousands of people. Youth leaders from both Montezuma and Garfield County were there to promote awareness of homeless and runaway youth, pass out literature and green lights, and talk about the mural project's symbolic meaning. The mural then moved to the Colorado State Capitol building for nine days.

The mural represents several important things:

  • Positive Youth Development, because youth led the project
  • November being National Homeless Youth Awareness Month
  • The Green Light Project
  • Imagery of homeless youth
  • Colorado (a map of the state is faded into the very background layer of the composition)
  • The theme of Making the Connection, because youth from across Colorado created the tiles in their communities, and once the tiles came together the whole composition created a resonating message of collaboration being a key element of success

Additional 2012 Winners:

Mural Contest Second Place Winner: A Lifeline to Those in Need, Sea Haven Transitional Living Program Junior Advisory Team, in Horry County, SC

Mural Contest Third Place Winner: Tree of Life, Growth and Change, Sasha Bruce YouthWork in Washington, DC

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